Setting up Sewer or Septic

Below is general information on sanitation systems. For information on suppliers for public dump stations and on-site pump and dump trucks (CLICK HERE).

If you have suggestions for setting up your RV, we’d love to hear about it.  Please comment below or send a private message.

First let me interrupt you from practical matters, because I HAVE to share a classic scene from RV starring Robin Williams.  If you haven’t seen the movie yet, I highly recommend it!

What you will find on this page:

  • I think I can connect to an existing public sewer. How does that work?
  • I’m using a septic system. How does it work to get a legal connection?
  • How do I drain waste water, if I have a connection without a good slope to drain my RV?
  • Can I leave the waste water gates open for my black and grey water tanks?
  • Can the type of toilet paper I use in my RV result in the need for expensive repairs? How can I avoid that?
  • How do I clean my RV tank?
  • I do not have access to on-site waste disposal. What should I do?

Sanitation services is often the most challenging part of creating convenient utilities for long term RV usage and it is the most important for health and safety.

I think I can connect to an existing public sewer. How does that work?

  • An RV must be connected to the home’s exterior clean-out with a well-secured drain hose that will not allow odor and gas to escape.
  • RV tanks, hoses, and connections may not leak gray or black water onto the ground.
  • I believe that you will need a back flow device for public sewer because flooding is common after wildfires and is also an issue if you are at the base of a hill. Rarely in disaster situations is this thought of until a problem happens. (Basically what I’m saying is that the backflow problem is always from the exterior system to the RV, not the inverse.)
  • Below you will find more information if you find that you don’t have a perfect “rise-over-run” for drainage, which is a common set-up challenge.

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I’m using a septic system. How I get a legal connection?

If you are from Paradise, READ THIS. (Please note that since that useful info was published, rules for returning for damage lots are changing, but the logic offered still applies.)

Below are some general “rules of thumb” after fire storms. Contact your city or county health department for more information.

A septic system approval can be issued if the septic system record on file shows that the septic system has adequate capacity to service the RV. If it is determined not to be sufficient, a bedroom must be taken out of use while the RV is present to reduce sewage flow from the house. In that case a conditional statement on the permit will be required for septic approval.

If there is no record of the septic system or it was damaged, a field clearance is required. The field review must substantiate adequate function and capacity in the septic system for the intended use. Generally, the septic system must be uncovered for evaluation. If the septic system is inadequate or if the house is served by a cesspool, a new septic system may be required.

As for septic systems on property damaged by the wildfire, I’ve seen various policies for inspection and clearance. They generally don’t get damaged unless heavy equipment rolls over the leach field.

How do I drain waste water, if I have a connection without a good slope to drain my RV?

If the physical location of your RV allows for an ideal “rise over run” connection for the efficient transport of waste water to a septic or public sewer connection, then this is the ideal solution. In many situations that isn’t possible.

A device called “Sewer Solution” uses fresh water to push waste water of any type over hills and long distances. It can pump waste up to 100 feet over level ground and up to 3 feet above the level of the holding tank. This is specifically designed for RVs with holding tanks.

Can I leave the waste water gates open for my black and grey water tanks?

IMPORTANT: What most RV users and even building department employees DO NOT KNOW about RVs is that you cannot leave the black water drain valve open. If you do, pyramiding occurs and will eventually cause a terrible blockage in the RV system from dried fecal matter usually requiring professional help to repair.

It is recommended to open the lines periodically to drain black water into the sewer or septic system, if attached. (If using a pump and dump service, this is not an issue to be concerned about.)

Grey water drain valves can be left open, if you follow the advice in the video below.

Can the type of toilet paper I use in my RV result in the need for expensive repairs? How can I avoid that?

This topic is very important to understand for your comfort and avoid unpleasant situations. CAUTION: Just because it says septic safe DOES not mean that it is appropriate for RVs.

Please watch this video (you could skip the testing after 9m30)

Suggested products with Amazon links:

  • Valterra 45 Degree Clearview Sewer Adapter (CLICK HERE)
  • Scott Rapid-Dissolving RV Toilet Paper (CLICK HERE)

How do I clean my RV tank?

Do not EVER use bleach on your tanks to clean them unless you want to risk the seals being rotted by the chemical reaction that happens between bleach and soft plastics.

If you want to get the essential bits, there is an overview of RV tank cleaning up to 4 minutes and then view 10m20 seconds to see the cleaning process which takes 10+ minutes to complete.

Suggested products with Amazon links:

  • Happy Campers 64 treatments (CLICK HERE)
  • Camco RV Flexible Swivel Stick with Shutoff Valve (CLICK HERE)

I do not have access to on-site waste disposal. What should I do?

When neither public sewer or septic is available, you may be allowed to pump and dump if you have a monthly contract. You will not be allowed a “pay-as-you-go” service plan. They will want on-going assurance that the sewage is properly disposed of. Driving to a dump site is only acceptable during the immediate crisis following the disaster. (Confirm with your local building official. Each city or county does things differently.)

Traditional home dwellers will have some initial challenges to adjust to the limited holding capacity. The black water is generally not a problem, but the grey water holding capacity problem is due to leaving the kitchen faucet on alot or taking long showers.

RV living is going to teach you how much resources you consume to maintain your daily life. You can rent an additional grey water waste tank to increase holding capacity between service visits.

Almost all content on this website is ORIGINAL research based on thousands of hours of work over the past 4 years post disaster… for FREE! Please credit accordingly, by referring back to this website, and tips or words of kindness are greatly appreciated.


~*~ Updated Feb. 2, 2019 ~*~
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